Thanks to our friends at Brooklyn Heights Blog, we were alerted to attend tonight's release party for volume 4 of Aprendiz, Brooklyn Tattoo owner and all-around great artist Adam Suerte's graphic memoir of his apprenticeship in the tattoo biz. The party was at the unparalleled Cobble Hill comic book store, Rocketship, where we get all our Justice League of America T-shirts and mo' better stuff too.
We got there via the G train from Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg. We were excited to see about the extension of the line starting on Sunday.
This Sunday the G train can take us to Church - Avenue, that is. One seat for us now to Park Slope and Kensington and every place in between.
To get to Rocketship, of course, we take the G to Bergen Street, making sure to stay at the front of the train so we can set out at the north Warren-Smith Streets corner (where's Septimus?)
As we said, Adam is the head honcho at Brooklyn Tattoo at 99 Smith Street.
But he's a total artist, with more than the body as his canvas.
He makes paintings.
Here's Cobble Hill Park:
Adam designed this wonderful Grand Army Plaza arch glass
and this glass with the Williamburgh Savings Bank clock tower.
And he's achieved incredible success, justifiably, as a graphic novelist. Here's a review of Aprendiz #1 at Midnight Fiction:
Aprendiz follows Suerte's artistic journey on his path to becoming a tattoo artist in NYC. The first issue chronicles his early days as a evolving cartoonist, tracing his development from art school in late '80's through a 7-year stint as part of an artist's collective called Urban Folk Art. The group struggled to stay afloat printing T-shirts and indie comics; and painting murals. At times, they supplemented their income working retail or production day jobs to pay the rent. About this time Suerte met a couple of tattoo artists who eventually gave him a shot at an apprenticeship at their shop.
Suerte is a wonderful cartoonist and storyteller. Aprendiz provides a fascinating glimpse into the development of a tattoo artist set in the rich countercultural streets of South Brooklyn.
Here's a short version of his bio:
Adam Suerte grew up in South Brooklyn where the streets were his canvas long before he was putting the streets on his canvas. He went to Music and Art High school where his graffiti flourished, and his love of underground comics psychadelic art and illustration began to bloom. At Rhode Island School of Design, he studied illustration, even though he is more of a painter. Dutch masters, Impressionism, Op Art, Pop Art, Hudson River Valley School , and the art of ancient Mexico were a few things that caught his eye. Upon moving back to Brooklyn he founded the artist cooperative Urban Folk Art© where the group ran a silkscreen studio, published their own comics, curated openings, participated in murals projects, guerrilla art projects, and taught art to kids. As they shut down the Printing aspect of the group 8 years later. Adam apprenticed at a tattoo shop in the late 90's, and opened and operates Brooklyn Tattoo, the first ever tattoo studio gallery in Cobble Hill Brooklyn, where he still resides. He is also continually painting makking comics, murals , and teaching art to kids.
There was a good-sized crowd at Rocketship early in the evening.
Adam was patiently talking to fans and friends and signing books.
He let us take a pic with our crappy cell phone camera,
and then he signed our copy of Aprendiz, book four.
Just a few panels from the latest issue to show you what a terrific graphic artist/writer Adam Suerte is:
The four volumes of Aprendiz deal with Adam's apprenticeship as a tattoo artist. In the last volume he tells of his final years toiling for and learning from the temperamental partners Myke and Jeff.
Badly in need of just a little iced tea, we devoured Adam's new book a couple of blocks north of Rocketship at the Smith Street Starbucks. To give you an idea of critical reception of Adam's work, here's a review of the intial volume at the Comics Journal:
Being a tattoo artist, it is not surprising that Adam Suerte can draw. What is surprising is that Suerte knows his way around a comics page the way your dad knows his way around the liquor store.
The most prominent trend in Aprendiz is the integration of elements typical to tattoo design into Suerte's compositions; Skulls, daggers and 40-ounce beer bottles are recurring images. The most impressive application of such imagery is the use of a flowing banner to display narrative captions. The banner serves dual purposes: Being a tattoo-related image, it strengthens the bond between art and subject. It also fills the more practical role of visual traffic controller. Banners overlap from panel to panel, directing the eye and creating a smooth visual flow. The result is a seamless page. The effect provides for as graceful a visual reading experience as one could ever want.
Hey, we got one of the lucky copies and won a free T-shirt!
At the end of the latest volume, Adam and his former bosses, Jeff Ortega and Myke Maldonado, who until recently were estranged, each discuss his memoir and the real-life events behind it.
It's a nice peek behind the curtain of the themes and plot of the opus. Jeff writes that
the one thing that Adam can claim in this industry is being the master of true Brooklyn tattooing ince there is no one within the borough (or on the planet for that matter) that can lay out a better homage to the County of Kings and New York City on skin than Adam.
It was a great evening, and we wish Adam Suerte ¡Mucha suerte! with the new book. Drop by Rocketship and you can get a copy and see for yourself how good he is.